Juvenile rehab center to close; 35 to lose jobs

TROY — Employees of the West Central Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility north of Troy were told Tuesday the 32-bed facility for boys 12 to 17 would close by June 30.

The facility is operated by the Ohio Department of Youth Services and employs around 35 people.

The closing was confirmed by Miami County Juvenile/Probate Court Judge Scott Altenburger, who said he did so “with a heavy heart.” The center was designed to serve youth in Miami, Darke, Auglaize, Mercer, Preble and Shelby counties.

The center was notified in December by DYS that its annual funding would end in June and administrators were ordered to stop taking new youth at the facility, he said.

An appeal was filed by Gary Link, facility executive director, but denied Feb. 1 by DYC Director Ryan Gies.

Link called the decision to close “frustrating,” saying the facility had a recognized juvenile sex offender treatment program and a staff that does excellent work.

In a Dec. 11 letter to Link, a DYS official said the facility was intended as a local option in lieu of commitment to the state for youth in the six counties. However, in December five of the six counties had not signed a fiscal year 2021 grant agreement, said Teresa Jamison, DYS deputy director of courts and community. The only one signing was Miami County.

“In addition, the overall admissions to this facility continues to decrease with only 17 total admissions in fiscal year 2020 and only six of those were from the multi-county area the facility was originally designed to serve,” Jamison wrote.

Other facilities in the state could handle those youth, the letter said.

Those reasons were repeated in a response Wednesday from DYS to questions posed due to the closing. DYS officials referred all other questions to local officials, said Jill Craig, DYS communications chief.

“The appeal asks for DYS to compare costs with other CCFs and highlights the quality of the West Central programming, specifically the sex offender program …,” Gies wrote. “The quality of the program and operational costs were not factors in the decision to terminate funding.”

At the time of notification that funds would be denied, Auglaize, Preble and Shelby County juvenile court judges had approved new governance agreements for the center and were ready to submit the agreements to their county commissioners, Altenburger said Tuesday via email. He asked Gies on Wednesday to allow an appeal based on the pending governance agreements.

The Miami County commissioners will explore uses for the rehabilitation center property, which is next to the West Central Detention Facility, commissioners Greg Simmons and Wade Westfall said Wednesday. The rehabilitation center was built in 1993.

The detention facility will remain in operation.

The commissioners participated in a December meeting with Link, rehab center staff and 80th District State Rep. Jena Powell, who was active in trying to keep the center open, Simmons said.

Powell said Wednesday she was disappointed to hear the facility will close.

“We know there are many people who have been served by this facility over the years, and many wonderful individuals who have worked hard to care for the youth of our state in this facility,” Powell said.. “I want to take a minute to thank the employees of the facility who have sacrificed time and talent, and who have invested so much in the youth who have come through this facility. You make our community great.”

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